The relays are always full of thrills and spills, never more so than on the tight circuits at indoor meetings. And it was one trip and spill which handed an unexpected gold medal to Jamaica in the men’s 4x400 metres at the 10th IAAF World Championships here in Budapest.
The focus of the action came on the second and third legs, after Jamaica and the United States seemed to have broken away in their own private battle for gold, some six metres or so ahead of the teams from the Bahamas and Russia.
But as Tim Munnings and Boris Gorban contested the bronze medal position around the final bend of their leg, a clash of legs saw Munnings tumble to the floor, leaving Russia with a clear run for bronze.
On the next leg, though, an even greater impact was made on the eventual outcome. Joe Mendel, the sixth placer in the previous day’s individual 400m final, ran a determined and gutsy leg to get the Americans back on level terms with Jamaica.
Mendel had gone the hard, long way around Michael McDonald on the final bend, and eked out a small but significant lead of less than a metre as he approached the changeover zone, where Godfrey Herring was waiting to take the baton.
But Mendel was tired. So tired that before he had had a change to pass the baton to his team mate, his legs gave out on him, there was a trip, and in a moment, the baton was gone from his hand and on to the floor.
Davian Clarke, the individual silver medallist running the anchor leg for Jamaica, was thus able to enjoy a relatively comfortable tour around the track, finishing in 3min 05.21sec, comfortably ahead of Russia’s Aleksandr Usov, who brought his team home for silver.
The unfortunate Americans were to be punished, too, for Herring, who picked up the stick, was adjudged not to have received the baton properly from Mendel, and so the US team was disqualified, handing the bronze to Ireland.
For Greg Haughton, the Jamaicans’ dependable lead-off leg runner, the gold medal will have made a very welcome change: in an international career going back to 1992, Haughton has collected eight global bronze medals.
The unofficial splits for the winning Jamaican team were: Haughton 46.4; Leroy Colquhon 46.3; McDonald 46.3 Clarke 46.2.